BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 12, 2017–In the wake of three United States Supreme Court arbitration awards against the Government of Belize totaling over US 50 million dollars, the government of Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow issued a press release yesterday with a bold caption, saying, “The Government of Belize will not pay for PUP corruption.”
In the US Supreme Court decision, the arbitration award includes payouts for botched deals with Newco, the Belize Healthcare Partners Limited, and the Belize Bank, as well as the BTL Accommodation Agreement and BTL Settlement Agreement.
This afternoon, Amandala asked the Opposition People’s United Party area representative for Caribbean Shores, Hon. Kareem Musa, to comment on the government’s position regarding the court decision.
Hon. Musa said that no media house in Belize has properly reported on this lawsuit. “But my understanding is that it has to do with the accommodation agreement and it has to do with Newco (the company that was supposed to expand the Philip Goldson International Airport.),” he noted.
“It was clear from the onset the strategy of this Prime Minister since he took office in 2008, what his plans were in order to deal with the telecommunications and the electric company, the national utilities. His strategy was to take away and then to litigate to death. The real point of the matter is that as an attorney of law, as a senior counsel, the Prime Minister knew that if you’re going to confiscate private property in the manner that he did, you would have had to compensate,” Hon. Musa said.
He added that had the Prime Minister paid Lord Michael Ashcroft in 2008 when he acquired BTL, we would have paid between one hundred and two hundred million dollars, as opposed to over five hundred million dollars.
“But the Prime Minister was stubborn, and he wanted to litigate, because his family earned legal fees from the litigation. And again, I still don’t know how his family quantifies their legal fees, because normally, it seems they attached a percentage, because it has been to the tune of millions of dollars. You are only supposed to attach a contingency fee in instances when you win money for the Government of Belize.
“So I am still baffled as to how it is this has gone under the radar, that millions of dollars in legal fees have been paid to this special family,” Hon. Musa remarked.
Amandala asked Hon. Musa if he could quote a specific figure to estimate the amount that the government has paid out in legal fees.
He directed our attention to the budget figures for this fiscal year.
“If you go by the budget presentation of this year and you look at the previous years since this has been going on, it adds up to more than 27 million dollars in legal fees and other fees, which is how they have termed it in the budget. They probably had some accounting cost in there,” Musa responded.
Musa said that Prime Minister Dean Barrow has never come out and said in the House of Representatives how much his ex-wife, Lois Young, made; how much his brother, Denys Barrow, made. He always responded, “you’re getting value for money from the best lawyers.”
“But not even the best lawyers cannot win a case that you, as a senior counsel, knew you were going to lose,” Musa said.
“And so, the point of all this is that Dean Barrow continues to blame the PUP and he keeps saying these words like ‘accommodation agreement,’ trying to brainwash the Belizean people after nine years, trying to convince the Belizean people that it is the PUP’s fault, when in fact, this matter could have been resolved a lot cleaner, a lot swifter and this could have been behind us.
“But now we are faced with exponential damages, exponential legal fees and costs and interests that ought never to have been. And that, to me, is where [the problem] arises. What was the tendering process to get your ex-wife and then your brother on the payroll?” Hon. Musa asked.
“These individuals have charged millions without any justification about how they arrived at those figures, after they have lost all the cases,” Hon. Musa pointed out.